Thursday, September 4, 2014

Moving Pictures Part 1

It looks like it’s that time again - Rollasoc has asked me to write a blog once again. I think he really wanted me to blog about the mixing process for EP6 but he left it too late, that (mix)bus has already departed. Yes, that’s right, EP6 is mixed at last, yay me! Instead I am going to write something about the process of creating a video - just in case there isn’t enough drivel out there on the web already.

My Step-Brother recently commented that it is not enough that we write, record, and produce our own music, now we have to be video actors, directors, and producers as well. If only I could manage even one of those things! Things I’m certain that I’m definitely not are actor and cameraman, for Beijing Morning I used screen grabs to overcome this, probably not a trick I could pull a second time.  Instead, the quest began to find a way of making an animation.

First and foremost this had to be cost effective, or as it’s sometimes known, free. A quick play with a well known search engine lead me to Pivot Animator http://pivotanimator.net/ ). This is an extremely simple, and also rather brilliant, stick-man animation package. Each frame has to be animated by hand, no tweening here, although the programme provides onion skins of the previous cel to help you. I produced a couple of simple animations of a stick man strumming a guitar which I am rather pleased with, but the thought of doing 3 mins plus, one frame at a time, fills me with dread.

With Pivot out of the running it was time to find something else. I had used Blender ( Blender ) previously to do the cover of EP5 and was aware that it had some good animation features so this has become my next and hopefully final choice.

Oh boy, this is a choice I am going to hate! First off, Blender is free and represents an unbelievable amount of effort for the people behind it so it would be churlish to complain about it. So that makes me churlish.

It is a seriously powerful tool, you could easily pay thousands of pounds to get this level of features in a commercial package. What your money would also get you is a user interface that made sense. I suspect that for a lot of very clever programmers the user interface is the last thing they think about, if they even think about it at all. This program has menus, it really does, in fact they are all over the place. None of them do what you expect. Instead, to use the programme properly you have to learn hundreds of keyboard shortcuts. Not normal shortcuts of course, oh no! [ctrl c] to copy? You should be so lucky! [del] to delete something? Why on earth would you do that when you can [shift x] instead? Still, you can always check the documentation…..don’t get me started.

Blender lets you use external renderers which is another powerful feature, unfortunately the latest version doesn’t work with the renderer that I had used previously so I have to learn the built in render tool - Cycles. This is yet another incredibly steep learning curve that I need to climb.

More to come in Part 2